Toledo’s two candidates for mayor in the Nov. 5 election each pledged support to a South Toledo neighborhood alliance Tuesday night, with incumbent Mayor Mike Bell stressing a renewed focus on quality-of-life issues now that the budget is stabilized.
Mr. Bell and challenger D. Michael Collins, both political independents, addressed about 95 people in the forum organized by the South Toledo Neighborhood Alliance at Burroughs School.
Buckeye, a sister company of The Blade, also plans to film and broadcast on Channel 69 the debates scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Chester Zablocki Senior Center in North Toledo and 12:30 p.m., Oct. 24 at the East Toledo Senior Center. Those broadcasts will also be placed on VOD.
Televised debates are planned for Oct. 29 on WTVG-TV, Channel 13, and Oct. 30 on WTOL-TV, Channel 11, both at 7 p.m.
Repeating, with some variations, the narrative that he has given at each campaign appearance since launching his re-election bid, Mr. Bell said the city has begun to turn around since the fiscal crisis of 2010.
“We are starting to turn the corner on a lot of these issues you’re trying to deal with. First we had to try to get our budget right,” Mr. Bell said. “The bottom line you’ve given me is, you didn’t want me to raise your taxes and to maintain your standard of service.”
The mayor didn’t mention the $48 million deficit he said he inherited when he took office in January, 2010, nor did Mr. Collins — even though it was a dominant topic during several previous forums attended by the two candidates.
Mr. Collins has called for making the 0.75-percent portion of the city income tax permanent, and reducing the entire tax from 2.25 percent to 2.2 percent.
Responding to questions provided in advance to give them time to prepare, the two candidates answered yes — with some caveats — to eight other questions, including to step up street resurfacing, send police officers to the associations’ monthly meetings, repair recreation facilities, and to oppose a proposed strip club in the neighborhood.
The exception was the request to support passage of an ordinance that would require owners of vacant and abandoned houses to put up $10,000 bonds to ensure the buildings’ upkeep or demolition. The proposed ordinance is modeled on one enacted in Youngstown.
Mr. Bell and Mr. Collins both said Toledo has enough laws and its own vacant-house registry. Toledo’s registry, enacted in 2008, requires a $200 annual registration fee and currently has 834 homes registered.
“I’m not going to copy Youngstown. I’m going to enforce what’s on the books,” Mr. Collins said.
Mr. Bell, who was endorsed earlier Tuesday by the Toledo Board of Realtors, said, “if you charge $10,000, you’re not going to get the money.”
Patti Foley, a member of the Burroughs Neighborhood Organization, said the group knows of 55 vacant dwellings out of 1,465 houses.
“Youngstown’s is working. Ours is not getting the job done,” Ms. Foley said. “Those responses were inadequate by both of them.”
The group got commitments to repair McCarthy baseball stadium in Highland Park; repair facilities in Highland, Woodsdale, and Burroughs parks, and commit to a feasibility study for a water park in one of those three parks during the first two years of the next administration.
Mr. Bell said, “if the funding in the city continues to rise, which it is doing now, we will hit each one of your issues,” but asked them to prioritize their requests because, “we want to cover the whole city.”
Mr. Collins said it was sad that the Highland Park pool was destroyed, and that it could have been avoided. “I will assure you you will have a water park,” Mr. Collins said.
During closing remarks, Mr. Bell noted 75 police officer recruits began their academy training Tuesday. Mr. Collins said despite Mr. Bell's hiring of police officers, the force is still smaller than it was when he took office, after retirements.
“We do not have a greater police presence. I promise you, that will happen,” Mr. Collins said.